5 Key Takeaways from CoreNet Global Summit

“Blurring the Lines, Transcending Boundaries” was the theme of the 2017 CoreNet Global Summit, held last month in Seattle. For our readers who were not able to attend, below are some of the most important takeaways from the two-day event:

  1. “If you are not a driven company, you will be out of business.”
  2. “It’s becoming more about approaches and styles.”
  3. WELL Worth It
  4. “Keep all assumptions visible to the CFO.”
  5. “70% of the future jobs in 2025 have NOT yet been invented.”


1) “If you are not a driven company, you will be out of business.”

The keynote session on Day 1 – “Exponential Technology: Innovation and Disruption on the Road Ahead” – kicked off the Summit and had attendees mulling over a swarm of information right off the bat. In the session, Peter Diamandis, the Chairman and Co-Founder of Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank, offered his take on the future impact of technology for our businesses and our lives, including these three salient points:

      • Radical transparency – the idea that the minute you do something it is visible to the world – needs to be addressed, whether you are a business or an individual. What does this mean for your company? How do you control the interpretation – the filter – by which others decide how they are going to deal with what they just saw?
      • Everything in the future, and some places today, will be tracked by data. An explosion of data sensors everywhere – “think data collection on steroids” – will greatly enhance the knowledge we have.   With all of this data, we will need to decide what to do with it once it is collected. According to Diamandis, the quality of the questions we ask about the data (e.g., “What does this mean?”) will be more important than the data that was captured.
      • “If your company is not driven, you will be out of business.” Diamandis said that companies must go beyond their limitations. Even though you may have very real limitations, you must figure out how to work around them to achieve success.

2)  “It’s becoming more about approach and styles.”

The session entitled, “From Higher Ed to Higher Performance – Striking a Balance,” looked at the growing collaboration between businesses and higher education. According to presenters, corporate real estate is beginning to garner a significant geographic presence right next to college campuses throughout the country. This close proximity is particularly attractive to businesses that want to attract the best and brightest of the next generation workforce.   Other insights from this session suggested that:

      • Approaches and styles are becoming as important as the facility itself. Presenters proposed that as long as people are feeling good about what they are doing and it is purposeful, they will be less impacted by where they are working. Instead, young employees want to feel valued. Social cohesion has to be present: There has to be evidence that the company REALLY supports and engages the young workforce and that the company lets workers see how their contributions fit into the bigger picture.
      • Young workers want a daily feedback loop. There is a shift in attitudes currently happening in which newer workers want the ability to get and give feedback.
      • “Finding solutions to unify the workforce does not matter, but connecting them does.” Presenters noted that it is important with the next generation to have ways to keep them connected with their co-workers.
      • Accomplishing feedback and connection has surfaced in the new 1-on-1 meeting style of “the walking meeting,” in which a senior and younger co-worker (or manager and employee) are NOT sitting on opposite sides of a desk or table, but instead walking and talking. Several advantages were cited: 1) No barriers – therefore better for communication; 2) More healthy to walk than sit; and 3) Time management – a 20 minute communication session seems adequate and allows for a few minutes to relax or prepare for the next activity.

3)  WELL Worth It

One of the breakout sessions focused on the implementation of the WELL Building Standard at TD Bank, one of the 10 largest banks in the United States. To prove that the guidelines of WELL were worth the expense, TD Bank designed two identical floors of an office building to house one of its business units. Each floor had the same amount of employees, performing similar work, and featured a similar optimized design, including the amount of external views, placement of restrooms, etc. The only difference between the two floors was the inclusion of WELL design features on one floor. They achieved statistically significant (double-digit) improvements in lighting, nourishment, ergonomics and other areas, including findings such as:

      • Not all daylight is equal. Daylight coming in over a shoulder is not as beneficial as being able to look up from work and see out a window.
      • People struggle with how to communicate daylighting changes. Employees can tell that something is different, but will communicate that difference in other ways: They may say just that they can tell something is different, or think it is warmer or colder when the only thing that has changed is the lighting.
      • Mindful eating makes a difference. The WELL Building Standard requires that a certain amount of space be set aside for where food and water, fresh fruit, etc. is offered. On TD Bank’s WELL floor, healthy food, signed appropriately, was offered and quickly became so popular that they had to adjust their budget because people were eating more. In addition, they also found that when people had the opportunity to take a break, grab an apple and spend even just 15 minutes chatting with co-workers, they returned to their desks rejuvenated and more productive.
      • WELL suggests that 25% of workstations should have sit/stand capabilities. When TD Bank implemented these workstations, those who didn’t have them wanted them, and even those from the non-WELL floor found out and wanted them too. TD Bank realized improvements in worker output by allowing employees to move and change the way they work throughout the day.
      • According to the presenter, incorporating wellbeing into the workplace is becoming statistically significant for lots of reasons, especially if it is seen as something that the company is motivated to do. When employees sense that wellbeing is part of the culture of the organization, they tend to more significantly look forward to coming to work every day, and have greater pride in their workplace, and therefore, retention increases.
      • All of the WELL Concepts – natural light, healthy eating, better sleep, etc. – are integral to one’s mental health. Before implementing the design changes, TD Bank employees scored below the national average on a mental health assessment. After implementing the optimized design, employees scored significantly above the average. In addition, anecdotal information shared by the presenters suggested that when people feel valued and have a purpose, their willingness to refer friends to the company for recruiting also improved.

4) “Keep all assumptions visible to the CFO.”

In “CFO Perspective on Corporate Real Estate,” presenters provided these tips for a stronger relationships between corporate real estate and corporate finance:

      • Keep all assumptions visible to the CFO, not just the costs. If those assumptions change, then the CFO will understand why AND understand the implications.
      • Clearly articulate the combined understanding of the strategy and the business request. Be prepared to talk about who is sponsoring the change, how the deal will be concluded and at what cost. Is the goal to gain a new strategic capability or to get to customers not currently being served?
      • Understand that technology is now the #2 cost in facilities, right behind people. At the same time, understand the HR component of every decision. Many companies are now treating these dollars and related operational expenses as separate from facility operations expenditures.
      • Don’t jump to consolidation but know the rules of the game. Mergers and acquisitions continue to dominate the market, making it imperative to understand the true rules of the game. For example, if a 200-person firm merges with a 300-person firm, you will probably not need space for 500 people.
      • Predictive analysis is important to understand the implications of decisions for the future.
      • Use the right metrics for the specific issue, whether it is profit per square foot or people per square foot or some other clearly articulated and stated metric.

5)  “70% of the future jobs in 2025 have NOT yet been invented.”

The last session of the conference, “Future Proofing: Are you Ready”, played to a packed house: 25 tables of eight, along with 50+ people lining the walls. In the session, each table was given a point of view, e.g., workplace, procurement, etc., and was asked to envision how trends such as workplace flexibility and technology would impact their opportunities by 2025. Key findings from the session:

      • Taking a long view of 2025 is essential to today’s decisions.
      • 70% of typical workplace jobs in 2025 haven’t been created yet.
      • Cycles are getting faster all the time and jobs are changing as a result.

Some key predictions from the Summit:

      • Office leasing cycles will plummet from months to weeks/days.
      • 25% of all knowledge-worker jobs could be outsourced by AI and automation by 2025.
      • By 2025, the majority of office transactions will be executed online.
      • Over 70% of millennials and Generation Z want to own their own business someday.
      • In the future, you will buy your autonomous car from your neighborhood manufacturer.
      • There will be 50 billion connected devices and only 7 billion people by 2025.
      • Flexible office will grow to 30+% of the typical occupier portfolio.
      • You will be able to set your term, improvements, and requirements for a workspace for any length of time.
      • Service providers will focus on strategy and as technology automates brokerage.
      • A 10% increase in well-being investment results in 5% increase in job performance.

One attendee summed up the session noting that “Humanity has the ability for brilliance that machines do not. We should trust the fluorescence of human genius.”

Indeed we should.

About the Author

Bryon D. Sutherly, AIA, CDT

Hixson Sr. Project Architect and Leader, Workplace Strategies & Corporate Workplace Business Unit

In his role as Senior Project Architect at Hixson, Bryon Sutherly is responsible for programming, design, and related tasks for Hixson’s Corporate Workplace and R & D projects. Bryon, who holds a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Cincinnati, also serves as the Lead for the firm’s Corporate Workplace Strategic Business Unit.